Lawyers for Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent, are accusing the government of “smearing her character” by alleging that she offered to trade sex for a job.
Butina’s lawyers made the argument in court papers seeking her release from jail. Butina, 29, is accused of attempting to obtain American political groups at the direction of Alexander Torshin, a top official at Russia’s central bank.
Operating a gun rights group called The Right to Bear Arms, Butina and Torshin made close contacts with conservative political operatives as well as with officials with the National Rifle Association.
Prosecutors have argued that Butina should remain in jail until her trial because she poses a flight risk. The government claims to have evidence that Butina had contact information for members of Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB. (RELATED: Gov’t Accuses Maria Butina Of Offering Sex In Exchange For Access To Political Group)
Butina was also living with and dating Paul Erickson, a conservative political operative who attempted to set up meetings in May 2016 between Torshin and President Donald Trump’s campaign. Prosecutors cited Butina’s supposed offer of sex for a job as evidence that she was using Erickson to infiltrate American political groups.
U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu alleged in a July 18 court filing that Butina “offered sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.” Liu also said that Butina sent a text message in which she “expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate” with Erickson.
Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll accused the government of “smearing” Butina’s character by misrepresenting the text messages. Driscoll argued that Butina was falsely accused of being “some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power.”
As part of the discovery process, prosecutors turned over a three-year-old text message that Butina exchanged with a friend of hers who worked for The Right to Bear Arms.
“Sex. Thank you so much. I have nothing else at all. Not a nickel to my name,” Butina told the man when he asked about repayment, according to her attorneys.
Butina’s lawyers say that, rather than offering sex to the man for a job, the pair were carrying on a long-running joke. Butina’s friend had taken her car in for an annual inspection, and Butina jokingly offered sex as payment.
Driscoll also argued that the government has overstated the significance of her text messages about Erickson. He said that Butina wrote in one text message to a friend that Erickson was “bugging the sh*t out of me with his mom.”
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